There’s been an immense amount of focus on the great albums of 1991, as we reach the 20th Anniversary of their release. You can’t turn on your Sirius XM radio without announcements celebrating the Big 2-0 for such classics as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s 10, Metallica’s Black Album, U2’s Achtung Baby or the Lose Your Illusion albums from Guns n Roses. Those albums were all great in their own right, but I started wondering about the prior generations’ classics; the best from 1971. It too, was one hell of a year.
Here’s my Top 10 in Reverse Order:
9. Imagine, John Lennon – The album features the fabulous “Jealous Guy” one of the greatest from one of Rock’s greatest writers. Most of the remaining songs border on mediocre, with the exception of the title track which is unquestionably one of the greatest rock songs ever.
8. L.A. Woman, The Doors – this was the last album for The Doors before Morrison’s death in July of 1971. The Album features the title track, “Love Her Madly,” Riders on the Storm,” and my favorite Doors song, “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat).'”
7. The Yes Album, Yes – This one was the last for keyboardist Tony Kaye, but more importantly the first for guitar virtuoso Steve Howe. The album feature three progressive rock standards: “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.”
6. Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones – The bands 11th album, and their first entry in the 70’s, kicks off with “Brown Sugar” and features “Bitch,” “Wild Horses'” and “Dead Flowers.” It was the first album on the band’s new Rolling Stones Records label.
5. Aqualung, Jethro Tull – Ian Anderson and his ever changing crew at their best. The album kicks off with their classic “Aqualung” title track and also includes two other Tull staples, “Cross-Eyed Mary” and “Locomotive Breath.”
4. Fragile, Yes – This was the band’s first release featuring Rick Wakeman on keyboards, and he made an immediate impression. The album starts out with a beautiful intro from Steve Howe as they kick into their seminal hit “Roundabout.” The album also includes the classics “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Long Distance Runaround.”
3. Every Picture Tells A Story, Rod Stewart – Aside from the excellent title track (featuring fellow Faces alum Ronnie Wood), this album arguably includes two of Rockin’ Rod’s all-time best: “Maggie May” and “Reason To Believe.” Interestingly, “Maggie May,” was initially the flip-side to “Reason To Believe,” until the public got a hold of it. “Mandolin Wind” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” are also packed onto the excellent second side.
2.Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin – (aka Zoso) – the tricky lads from England never named this album, so it has basically become known as Led Zeppelin 4. The album kicks into high gear with the amazing “Black Dog” and also features “Rock and Roll,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Going to California,” and an obscure dance hit you may have heard titled “Stairway To Heaven.” The album closes with the under-appreciated “When the Levee Breaks.” Useless trivia: In Fast Times At Ridgemont High; Damone tells Rat to play side 1 of Led Zeppelin 4 to get a girl to make out. Rat plays Side 2 of Physical Graffiti. Damone gets the girl, so obviously it pays to know your rock and roll.
1. Who’s Next, The Who – Interestingly, this album started out as a disastrous attempt to record Lifehouse, a follow-up rock opera to the band’s huge 1969 hit Tommy. Pete Townshend later admitted he almost killed himself during those failed sessions. The band strung together the remnants for this fantastic album. Every song is a classic, from the opening keyboard notes of “Baba O’Riley” to the last chord on “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” this album is damn near perfect. The remaining tracks are “Bargain,” “Love Ain’t For Keeping,” “My Wife,” “The Song is Over,” “Getting In Tune,” Going Mobile,” and my personal favorite “Behind Blue Eyes.”
A few others I considered: At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band. Didn’t include it because it was a live album, but the 23+ minute version of “Whipping Post” is one of the best live songs ever. Pearl, Janis Joplin, released after her death, which includes “Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz” and Sir Elton’s Madman Across The Water which starts off with a bang: “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon” but the rest of the album doesn’t compare.
There you have it the Top 10 from 40 years ago. You can check out the Top 10 from 1991 and decide which generation was better. For my money, I’d rather be stuck in the 70’s on this one.